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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Homeschooling in Another Country

None of my trips to another country are for leisure and, meanie that I am, why should they be fun for the kids?

“Mama, I’d like to buy a clay oil lamp,” my son tells me one morning.

“Great idea,” I reply, “but you’ll need to bargain for it in the shuk” (market).

“How do I know what to offer?” he wonders.

“Start at 50% of whatever price you’re quoted. That means half, divide by two, right?”


And away we go into the Old City of Jerusalem, frankincense and myrrh perfuming our way. We watch for pushy donkeys, or pushy push-cart… pushers… and enter back hundreds of years. Scarves and rugs and brass trays hang on either side of the stone-stepped walkway. Olivewood chess sets and brass coffee pots vie for space in tiny shops.

On the way to the Holy Land, hearing announcements in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport were fun for my son to decipher, as was the menu when he hankers for a chocolat chaud. We arrive to our hotel in Jerusalem and he interacts with the hotel workers in Russian, along with street signs in Hebrew.

“Tell me where we are,” I point at the street sign. He does.

I point out another sign, several minutes later, and his face screws up in concentration. It must be a calligraphic type face…. After a while, I clue him in.

“It’s in Arabic,” I finally tell him when he’s unable to crack the code.


Stone, Bronze, Iron Age time periods, Roman acquaducts, medieval buildings, Crusader castles—what’s not educational? At this rate, we may turn into unschoolers, a dangerous thought to my small mind.

We learn desert survival, or at least what I think are pertinent facts, since I cannot fact-check when we’re on the fly.

“Where’s the water?” I ask when there’s nothing to observe but rocky, flinty wilderness for as far as the eye can see. (Myth #1: there are only sand deserts—shattered.)

Meanwhile, Petya’s probably wondering, “Where’s the beef?” and hoping there’s a hamburger joint nearby.

“Um, wherever there are green plants?”

“And that would be… where?” Our eyes scan the barren horizon. No greenery.

“Maybe a well-worn path leads there…?”

“Good idea, but again, where?” No goat paths, sheep paths, people paths…. “Look for any birds, particularly first thing in the morning. Wherever they are, there will probably be water.”

I regret to inform him that some birds will fly up to 30 km. a day, twice a day, just to get water. And 30 km. is like… um… I don’t know… maybe 2,000 miles away.

I’m not comfy with non-curriculum courses, but the fact is, students absorb everyday, usable pieces of information much faster than any textbook theory.

“Quickly,” I tell Petya with fake urgency. “There are 3.5 shekels to one dollar. Five dollars will be equal to how many shekels?”

He looks at me and blinks. We have no slide rule.

“You want a drink?” I ask on another occasion enroute in Europe. “There is one Euro to every 1.4 Dollars. How much is 6 Euros, and why will we be swallowing our saliva, rather than coughing up that much for a Diet Coke?”

He makes up cheat charts for kilometers to miles, Celsius to Fahrenheit, and bagels to pita.

As a guy of the male persuasion, he relishes our visit to the tank museum, and to the Army surplus store, examining high-tech innovations over the decades. Could lead to an engineering career, or retail therapy….

For the classicists among us, there are remnants of antiquity to study: horned altars of sacrifice, and walled cities with escape tunnels. I ask him where inhabitants found water for the city’s moat.

“Springs?” he plays along with my pop quizzes, knowing that, if he’s good, I might spring for an ice cream eventually.

“Dry moats in the Middle East,” I chuckle. “No water.”

Learning to humor others is education enough. My son passes with flying colors. He’s a good egg.


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4 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Phyllis says:

    It sounds like you both are having a great time. We did 2 m-trips overseas when our bios were middle/high school. It was some of the best experiences and memories they have. We have never been to Israel. Our pastor just mentioned it last night at church – no one in our congregation has been! I enjoy the word pictures you give on the blog.

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks Phyllis. There is something very special about Israel. No one leaves this land unchanged. My son has been a tremendous blessing by assisting me every day in my work. In between we manage to get in some regular school as well as the great learning experience that surrounds us. Travel has a way of broadening our education, but travel to Israel gives us an indelible perspective on life.

  2. What a fantastic experience you’re able to give to your son. Thanks for sharing on the Carnival of Homeschooling.

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